Down in the Dirt
Paul has spent a large section of this letter addressing specific errors and false teaching which was presented in Colossae. He has addressed errors of adding to the Bible in requiring diets and days. He has also addressed errors in false worship and errors in regard to physical limitations that don’t deal with the heart of the matter. Paul then exhorts the congregation to change their perspective and the direction of their focus. Paul is not emphasizing the spiritual at the expense of the physical, for both were made by God. This is the heretical view of Gnosticism which treats the physical as evil and subpar in comparison to the spiritual realm. Paul’s exhortation shows how both are connected. Paul previously explained that in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). Both deity (spiritual) and bodily (physical) are inseparably joined together. From Colossians 2:8, Paul has been addressing the errors and explaining that the church has shifted its focus onto human tradition, philosophy, and the elementary principles of the world. Their gaze has been horizontal and not unto Christ. They have been looking to things that are not according to Christ.
Paul’s major argument in Colossians has been, “Christ is supreme and sufficient, and you are united to Christ, why then would you try to add to or take away from Christ?” Paul begins chapter three with the doctrine we have repeatedly seen throughout the study of the letter, union with Christ. He began explaining the argument back in Colossians 2:20, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations.” He begins explaining that we are united to Christ so why do you live as if we are still united to the world? The world and Christ are diametrically opposed from each other. Chapter three explains that union with Christ leads to a shift of focus. We are not only united with Christ because of a distant connection but if we have been baptized into Christ then we were baptized into his death (Rom 6:3). More importantly if we were united to Christ in his death, we also have been united to him in his resurrection. Paul explains in Ephesians that we were dead in our trespasses, but God has made us alive together with Christ, and we have been raised up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places (Eph 2:5-6). Paul begins chapter three with this argument, “If then you have been raised with Christ you should 1) Seek things above, 2) Set you mind on things above and 3) see things from above.”
I. Seek things above (vs 1)
Seek the things that are above, is the first command Paul explains, because of the Christian’s union to Christ. To seek is more than to go looking for something. When I am searching for something the urgency and importance of the item dictates how much will search for it. I might be looking for something like a pen, but often this is looking by chance. However, if I need to find my set of keys because I need to leave and I am running late I truly seek until I find. I will upend the house to find this particular item. We are to seek things above like the latter not just casually looking for something. Not only are we to seek with urgency, but also importance. Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). The urgency and importance increase with the value of the item, we would be in disarray if one of our children went missing, compared to looking for a key for an automobile. We should see the urgency and the importance of seeking the things above. Seeking is not a matter of the mind but rather the heart, you seek because your heart is drawn to find a particular thing.
Why are we to seek things above? We seek heavenly things because that is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. When we looked at Colossians 1:27, we saw the riches of a Christian is Christ. The difference when Paul tells the believers to seek the things above, he speaks specifically of Christ. There is no higher knowledge to be found in spiritual matters, like a secret realm of hidden knowledge. Paul is not teaching about a secret philosophy, but he is pointing them to Christ the person. Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father. The right hand is the position of power. Again, we see the emphasizes of Christ being supreme. Not only is Christ supreme because of the position he sits, but also because he is sitting. The author of Hebrews explains that Christ, “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12). Christ is also sufficient. You sit down when there is no other task to complete. Christ made the once for all sacrifice and sat down. The verse is also a reference to Psalm 110:1, the Psalm speaks of three people, The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand.” ‘The LORD,’ ‘Lord’ and the person speaking (David) who is referenced in the personal pronoun ‘my’. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, in the place of supremacy and completing his sacrifice fully satisfy the wrath of God, making the sacrifice sufficient.
The second point I would like to make briefly is the role of the accession of Christ, often we forget this important piece of doctrine in Christology. We speak of Christ being born, living, dying being raised again but often we forget that Christ ascended to heaven (Luke 24:31, Acts 1:11). Christ the second person of the Trinity took on flesh and the two natures the godhead and the manhood were inseparably joined together without conversion, composition or confusion. This was not a temporary joining but one that would last for eternity. Christ, fully God and fully man, is now in heaven as our mediator. His body did not remain on earth or in the grave but both natures ascended to heaven. This is why in the Lord’s supper the bread and the wine do not become Jesus body and blood, because Jesus has a real body and real blood in heaven. We seek the things above because that is where Christ is, the riches we desire.
II. Set your mind on things above (Vs 2)
Seeking is a matter of the heart, but we also should set out minds on things above as well. Many inspirational quotes have a similar comment. “You can be anything you set your mind on.” ‘Mind over matter,’ is another expression. Thinking happens throughout the day, but we need to begin to start thinking about things above. Paul gives a contrast. The opposite of thinking of things above is thinking of things on earth. We often warn our children to think about their actions. How often do we stop and ponder Christ and heavenly things? When Jesus rebuked Peter, he said, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Often, we think only of earthly things and earthly consequences. The physical is not bad, but we hardly need to be reminded of earthly things but heavenly things. Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Again, we need to understand that the physical is not evil, God made it. Paul explains that those who set their minds on earthly things have three aspects, their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame (Phil 3:19). Richard Baxter, a puritan, would spend 30 minutes a day thinking of Heaven. He writes, “There is a great deal of difference between the desires of heaven in a sanctified man, and an unsanctified. The believer prizes it above earth, and had rather be with God than here (though death, which stands in the way, may possibly have harder thoughts from him). But to the ungodly, nothing seems more desirable than this world; and therefore he only chooses heaven before hell, but not before earth; and therefore shall not have it upon such a choice.” I heard someone quote a member of our church that said, to non-Christian this is a good as it gets, but to the believer this is as worse as it gets.” We should not set our minds on dirt when we can consider the heavenly hosts and Christ whose dwells there.
III. Seeing things from above (vs 3-4)
The Christian life is that is a pilgrimage. We are not home yet. We travel through this land awaiting to be home with the Lord. Our life is found in Christ. We have died with Christ in our baptism. We need to seek heavenly things with our heart, to think heavenly things with our mind and also look to heavenly things with our eyes. Heaven is primary not secondary, you will spend more time in eternity than here on this earth; Then why do we spend so much time consumed with the dirt. Our life is not to be found here but in heaven with Christ, hidden in God. Hidden is not merely hidden out of plain sight but speaks more of hiding something in a secure place because of its value. We hide candy from the children, but we place things in a safe because of their value. We are not only called, beloved but also kept (Jude 2, 24). There will be a day when Christ returns, and our bodies will be glorified, and the ones hidden with Christ in God will appear with him in glory. We see the direct union with Christ. We are hidden with him and will appear with him. No longer will we have regular clothes on, but we will be clothed in glory. Glorification is another aspect we do not dwell on, we love to talk about justification and a little bit of sanctification, but hardly ever glorification. However, this is the end of all believers, that they will be raised in imperishable bodies. This is what we have hope of, the hope of Glory (Col 1:27). This is the final stop on the train line. It is what God works all things together for good, and for his purpose (Rom 8:28). The golden chain of salvation has one link which is the finish, glorification. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
We have our hearts, minds and eyes set on things above because that is where Christ is and where we will be. We should not be playing in the mud when we could be looking into the stars.